Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Tribunal Update 179 Last Week in The Hague (June 5-10, 2000)

Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Tribunal Update 179 Last Week in The Hague (June 5-10, 2000)

Saturday, 10 June, 2000

Croatian Justice Minister, Stjepan Ivanisevic, said during a visit to the Tribunal last week that the government in Zagreb had submitted over 3,500 documents to Tribunal prosecutors in recent months. Ivanisevic said there are no longer any problems in relations between the Tribunal and Croatia and that only "technical details" needed to be ironed out.

During the cross-examination of defence witnesses last week, prosecutors introduced as new evidence a document recently received from Zagreb, which the prosecution claim supports their case that Kordic exercised a military role in central Bosnia.

The document - a report dated February 1994 from the Croatian Information Service, HIS, to the then Croatian President Franjo Tudjman - cites politicians Dario Kordic and Ignac Kostroman as persons responsible for Croatian Defence Force, HVO, military operations in central Bosnia, including the crimes in Ahmici.

The report said Kordic and Kostroman harmed the HVO through their "political and military voluntarism and incompetence."

Kordic's defence lawyers claimed the report was fabricated. The document was unsigned, leading the defence to argue Kordic could not, therefore, challenge his accusers.

Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice, however, argued the entire document, which includes the report and a follow-up letter with the HIS stamp, looks credible. The judges concluded the document could be admitted as material evidence but reminded all sides that its probative value would only be decided during the analysis of all material evidence presented during the trial.

The prosecution has cited only one part of the document so far - that relating to an internal power struggle within the HVO.

"Aided by Dario Kordic and Ignac Kostroman, Darko Kraljevic [former commander of the special unit "Vitezovi" (Knights)] intended to use his appointment to the Main Headquarters of the HVO to destroy [former Bosnian Croat military commander in central Bosnia Tihomir] Blaskic. For some time now there has been a tacit but fierce conflict between Kordic and Kostroman and HVO presidents in Travnik, Novi Travnik, Vitez and Busovaca after a large part of territory in Central Bosnia was lost," the document read.

When confronted with this evidence, defence witness Zoran Maric, former president of the civilian HVO in Busovaca, said he was "not familiar at all" with the events mentioned and that the HVO presidents "never were against Kordic."

The defence case continued with testimony challenging prosecution claims that the Croatian Community of Herzeg Bosnia, HZHB, was created as a precursor to secession from Bosnia and unification with Croatia.

Defence witness Zoran Perkovic, who had worked in the Office of Legislation of Herzeg-Bosnia compiling legal acts of the HZHB, said the Community was a "temporary form of power organisation." Perkovic then added that, "there are no discriminatory elements towards any people in any of the regulations of the Croatian Community of Herzeg Bosnia."

Prosecutor Susan Somers then asked Perkovic whether he knew how these regulations were implemented in central Bosnia. Perkovic said he did not. Somers then asked which legal acts allowed for the creation of camps for Bosniak civilians on the territory of HZHB. Perkovic replied that the practice was contrary to regulations.

The defence then called Srecko Vucina, a former close aide to HZHB president Mate Boban. Vucina proceeded to entirely diminish Kordic's role and influence. Kordic did not belong, Vucina said, "to the group of people in the HZHB leadership." Boban as president and supreme commander of the Bosnian Croat army "did not discuss military questions with Kordic," Vucina said. Kordic's rank as colonel was only an "honorary title" he added.

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